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What’s the “Waffle House Index” and Why Should You Care?

Wait, the Waffle House Index is a Real Thing?

The Waffle House Index might sound like something ridiculous and totally made up, but it’s actually a legitimate (though informal) way to measure the severity of a natural disaster and the impact it is having on a local community. The term was coined by former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate following the tornado in Joplin, Missouri in May of 2011. Here’s how it works:

Waffle House operates around 2000 restaurants throughout the United States. The restaurants stay open 24/7, 365 days a year, usually no matter what is happening. So, if a natural disaster hits, and the local Waffle House has a limited menu, that’s a bad sign. This is referred to as “yellow” on the Waffle House Index.

If the restaurant shuts down completely, then conditions are probably pretty poor in the surrounding area. This is referred to as “red” on the Waffle House Index. If the restaurant is open and operating as normal, then it is considered “green.” The Waffle House Index is simply used as a reference to see how a community is faring after a disaster. Once the restaurants start reopening after a major storm, you can expect that the community is beginning to recover and rebuild.

How to Use the Waffle House Index to Your Advantage

But why is this important, and how can it be useful to insurance adjusters (especially independent catastrophic adjusters)? Sometimes, you just need a quick and dirty way to assess the situation after a catastrophe strikes. The Waffle House Index is a way to do just that. Waffle House restaurants are widespread in the southern United States.

So, if you’re working in an area where a hurricane or tropical storm just hit, give the local Waffle House a call to see how they’re faring. If nothing else, the Waffle House Index is a great conversation starter with other IAs in the field!

Jeremy Rettig

After discovering independent adjusting, Jeremy Rettig committed himself to becoming a student to the claims industry and a mentor to many. Now, Jeremy Rettig is a full-time claims mentor and trainer, and the founder of multiple insurance technology solutions.

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